New Symbol for the Indian Rupee
The Govt of India has just unveiled the new Rupee (रुपैया) symbol. It takes the र from the Devnagiri Script and the 'R' in the English version and converts it with an equality symbol to a new currency symbol. My friend Sandy thinks it’s ironic that the Indian GoI should be spending money on a symbol to denote equality when all around there are the major contradictions that is India.
When I was in Grade X - I read E M Forster's 'A Passage to India'. And while the surreal nature of the narrative incites and inflames the storyline, Forster provides an insight into the Indian psyche as visible to an outsider. One of the things he talks about is the contradictions that make up India. And how, India can get under your skin, and once it is under your skin, it stays there.
Living outside India for the last 15 years, it's become more and more apparent to me that distance does lend perspective. I think about my childhood, and the world we grew up in.
What bit of traveling we did inside India brought home the contradictions in the country very, very hard. Jamshedpur used to be known as a model city – neat, clean, organized, safe. Kolkata - where we went at least twice a year - was the epitome of these contradictions that Forster spoke of. Driving in the Kalighat area, with hookers offering their services for a paltry 15 Rupees (50 US cents!) The road led into the affluent Southern Kolkata neighborhoods, with tall ancestral homes and feudal properties. Mansions that the rich lived in, with their inherited riches. The city and its skyline sparkled with prosperity. The underbelly was crawling in the dirt. We were the middle class - the large section of the populace that controlled the morality of the times. Yet things were changing as they always do. Today, I still feel nostalgic when I am in Kolkata – nostalgic for the old times. Mumbai and Delhi and Bangalore and the rest are making money. Big money. Yet there are farmers committing suicide because they are unable to pay back the loans they took from money lenders. The divide has grown.
Each part of the country has its own unique trials and tribulations. As a whole, it has many more. And many more to come in the future.
But does that mean we give up the right to feel proud of what is essentially an interesting decision for our country? Do we have to question what seems to be a good call by focusing on the negatives?
Right now, the focus of the world is on India in a positive way. We have a Prime Minister that is the most educated head of state in the world today. He is man known as much for his honesty and straightforwardness as for his erudition. He is also listened to with respect by the ‘leaders’ of the world. Indian culture is the ‘IT’ culture in today’s world. We are being recognized as one of the leading economies in the world. If this is not a good time to introduce a symbol for our currency – what is? It’s been a long time coming. Yep, I did actually wonder at one time whether we would have a currency symbol like the dollar.
My two-bit? Take pride in that which is good in our country. Too often we let ourselves get caught up in criticizing the bad, and overlooking the good. We need to build up our own self-esteem. The rest will follow. These contradictions are what make India, India. I am not suggesting they are good, or bad. All I am saying is that they are.
My only gripe? We don’t have that symbol on the character set chart! Make space on the list of characters – the Indian Rupee is here!